I have a peacoat project, to be based on Vogue 8940, that’s been simmering in the background for a while now.
The project hasn’t yet made it past the pre-planning stage, but I have been slowly putting pieces in place. Earlier this year, I picked up a remnant of black Melton wool from Britex Fabrics.
Also from Britex, I’ve picked out some beautiful silver lining fabric, and some buttons. This past week, I purchased some hair canvas interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, which may also find its way into the project.
But aside from supplies, I’m missing another important piece: tailoring skills. I’ve never produced any sort of tailored garment before, so I want to learn more about what tailoring is, and what’s involved in producing a tailored garment.
As a self-taught sewist, I learn from all sorts of places, including books, magazines, TV shows, YouTube, and internet classes. I especially like video-based instruction since you can actually see the techniques demonstrated, rather than try to interpret a textual description from a book, or fill in the missing details from a photo.
I enjoy the sewing classes from Craftsy. Their courses have high production values. The user experience is pleasant; it’s available in your browser or on mobile devices (iOS or Android), it’s easy to navigate the lessons, you can repeat sections, take notes, and ask the instructors questions.
Craftsy has several video courses that cover introductory tailoring in some form or another. I’ve purchased and watched three of them. I recommend each of these courses, but each has its own focus and strengths, and which one you pick depends upon what you’re looking for.
I’ve learned there’s two different approaches to tailoring. The “classic” approach involves lots of careful hand-sewing, including hand-stitching layers of canvas and interfacing to shape the fabric but still give it movement. The “modern” approach uses fusible interfacing in place of canvas and hand stitching in order to mimic the classic approach to shaping with less work and time. Both approaches are represented in these classes.
Finally, it’s worth noting that all three classes assume you already know how to fit, and have a fitted pattern ready to be constructed. Steffani Lincecum is up-front about that, and she directs you to other Craftsy courses if you need help on the topic. Pam Howard offers a companion class on jacket fitting,
The Carefree Fly-Front Coat with Kenneth D. King
The Carefree Fly-Front Coat, with Kenneth D. King, is a good introduction to the concepts of tailoring. The class garment – a partially-lined, semi-structured coat with a fly-front facing – is streamlined in terms of tailoring principles, yet it has some interesting challenge details such as the fly-front, on-seam pockets, and cuff latches.
There’s quite a lot of pattern alteration going on – King shows you how to add princess seam lines, draft a yoke, a fly-front facing, a cuff latch, and an on-seam pocket. He discusses the difference between a pattern, and its draft (no seam allowances). He shows how to turn a pattern into a draft by subtracting the seam allowances, alter it, then turn it back into a pattern piece by adding the seam allowance back in. A full video session is devoted to the altering the pattern for the style changes King adds to the garment.
One thing I liked about this course was the coverage of the necessary equipment, and how to use it. I bought a pair of tailor-point scissors after watching this course, especially after hearing his detailed description of how they’re designed and intended to be used.
In terms of tailoring, King’s approach with this class is best described as “Classic Tailoring Lite”. The class project doesn’t involve tailoring skills such as catchstitching, taping, and padstitching, as would be used for a more structured garment. But King uses only sew-in, hair canvas interfacing for the project. He is a proponent of sew-in interfacing over fusible for most tasks because it has a much longer wear life and will lead to a much longer lasting garment.
Instead of padstitching in the undercollar, King uses some quilt-like lines of machine stitching to hold things in place. A lot of the basic tailoring concepts are still covered, including:
- Shaping fabric by stretching with the steam iron and use of the pressing ham
- Constructing a collar and rolled lapel
- Setting in sleeves
- “Favoring” turned seams with the iron
- The Hong Kong finish for seam binding in unlined garments
- Installing an on-seam pocket including the pocket bag
- Installing a lining. (The garment is partially lined).
King offers some great hints and tips in this class. I was especially grateful for his tricks on how to get sharp turned points, and he has excellent instructions, with nifty tricks, for attaching a button by hand. His method of hand-attaching buttons is the one I now use for all my sewing work, and I might even give it a try for attaching shirt buttons in future projects.
Finally, King is a fantastic instructor. He’s breezy but always to the point, he’s casual yet authoritative, he’s never dull to watch. He explains concepts clearly, and his demonstrations are easy to follow. I’ve watched another of his classes, Jeanius!, and found him to be a consistently good instructor.
In summary, The Carefree Fly-Front Coat is an excellent introductory tailoring class packed with lots of info. But it may not necessarily answer all the questions you might have for the specific project you’re planning.
Classic Tailoring: The Blazer with Steffani Lincecum
Classic Tailoring: The Blazer with Steffani Lincecum is a good overview of the “classic” tailoring style. It goes into more depth on some aspects of tailoring than does The Carefree Fly-Front Coat. Some of the classic techniques it covers are:
- Working with hair canvas and wigan. No fusible interfacings are used in the class.
- How to draft your own pattern pieces for internal muslin pieces to add structure the garment.
- Hand stitches, for attaching interfacings and linings solely by hand.
- Taping roll lines, for proper shaping of collars and lapels.
- Sewing a bound buttonhole.
- Setting sleeves, including sleeve assembly techniques that are more typically used in menswear.
- Adding sleeve vents, with mitred corners.
- Attaching collars and lapels.
- Lining the jacket, including a hand feather-stitch to secure the center pleat.
- Favoring, and “turn of the cloth”.
Patch pockets are the type of pockets demonstrated here. King’s class covers on-seam pockets, and Pam Howard’s class (below) shows you how to create welt pockets.
Pressing techniques are also covered well, though I think Kenneth King displays more fancy iron shaping techniques in his class. And though Lincecum shows you how to attach buttons by hand, King’s technique is better.
I was impressed also by several good tips and tricks, for tricky items such as:
- Sewing notched collars
- Adjusting sleeves to accomodate padding
- “Fitting” flared hems to eliminate excess fabric in the hem area
- Clipping curved seams
- Pinning techniques for favoring seams in patch pockets
What impressed me most about Steffani Lincecum as an instructor is that she makes everything look doable, even intricate, multi-step procedures such as sewing bound buttonholes.
As much as I did get from this class, there were some things which bothered me. Near the end, there was less sewing and more demonstration of completed samples. A pet peeve of mine is sewing videos where people don’t actually sew, and there was some of that going on here.
I felt that sleeve construction could have been described a bit better. I admit to having a bit of a mental block when it comes to sleeves, since I can’t picture how to do it even after watching all three classes. But this course in particular breezed over some of the steps, and presented some others as fait accompli – already done, instead of doing the work on camera.
I also would have liked to see the differences between mens and women’s sleeve construction in detail, since Lincecum mentioned in passing that the two of them were different and the method she presented is more typically found in menswear.
Occasionally, there is also some annoying camera work with a long-shot when you really want to be seeing the closeup of what the instructor is doing.
In summary, Classic Tailoring: The Blazer goes more in-depth than does The Carefree Fly-front Coat and will give you a good feel for what “real” tailoring is about, albeit with a few minor flaws in presentation.
Modern Jacket Techniques with Pam Howard
I would purchase Modern Jacket Techniques sight unseen, because of Pam Howard as the instructor. I watched through her earlier Craftsy course, The Custom Tailored Shirt, and found her style to to be calm, clear, and methodically step-by-step. You never get lost following Howard’s instruction, and she anticipates the mistakes newbies are likely to make and warns against those pitfalls.
By “Modern Techniques,” Howard aims to produce a garment like high-end ready-to-wear, rather than couture/custom tailored garments. She shows you how to use fusible interfacings to structure the garment.
Some of the topics covered by the course include:
- Fabric choices, including which fabrics work well with fusibles and which don’t
- Grain lines, and marking
- Welt pocket construction
- Sleeve attachment
- Mitred sleeve vents
- Collars and lapels
- Attaching Linings
- Finishing techniques, including buttons, buttonholes, hems
- Pattern modifications, including a back neck facing (as seen in high-end RTW)
- Hand-stitching, including the catch stitch and the felling stitch (for the hem and sleeves).
Two types of interfacings are used in the class project. All-bias (stretch) interfacing, and a weft (heavier) interfacing (Armo weft). The class notes indicate where each pattern piece is interfaced, and also what type of interfacing to use in a given place. Howard points out special ways to use interfacing. In one case, she fuses two layers of the same interfacing for extra body. For the undercollar, she applies one layer each of different interfacings, to mimic the effect of pad-stitching for shaping the rise of the undercollar.
In the course, most of the fusing and the basic seam construction is done off-camera. It’s assumed you know that stuff, and are here for the tricker things. That said, I would have liked to hear more about how fusibles are used for shaping, and how they mimic the work of hair canvas and pad-stitching. She does demonstrate the dark side of fusible interfacing – what bad fusibles, or fabrics that are not appropriate for use with fusibles, can do. The bubbling you get from incompatible fabrics can irreparably ruin a project.
Like the other courses, this one is chock-full of tips and tricks. Some of her tips:
- Use strips of brown paper to protect fabric from impressions when pressing seam allowances
- Make your pocket flap first, then size your welt pocket to fit the flap
- When setting in the sleeve, fold it inside out, and out over your fingers so that you arrange everything in a convex rather than concave way
- Attach button holes top down, button each buttonhole before sewing the next, to ensure they are aligned and there are no crimps from misplaced buttons
- Use a pinking shears around curves to emulate the effect of clipping with regular tailors point scissors
Again, as in Lincecum’s class, I found some minor issues in presentation. A few of the shots demonstrating certain types of work (attaching sleeves, collars/lapels, lining) left me a bit confused understanding what part of the garment was being shown while the technique was demonstrated. Backing up and rewatching the segment cleared up the mystery pretty quick, though.
Also as in Lincecum’s class, Howard started glossing over some techniques near the end, such as sewing the sleeve hem. In most cases, she had shown the technique before. She showed how to mark buttonholes but didn’t sew them, on or off camera – she demonstrated a sample instead. I wanted to see the finished result.
Compared with Lincecum’s Classic Tailoring course, Howard’s approach offers more streamlined techniques, and also less “couture” stuff. There are no instructions for a bound buttonhole, but you do put in a welt pocket with a flap. Howard’s method for sleeve construction is a bit different from Lincecum’s, as is her method for sleeve hems. Howard puts the buttons on the sleeves before attaching the lining, so that button attachment stitching is fully contained within the lining.
Overall, Modern Jacket Techniques complements the other two courses well in showing another approach to tailoring that will appeal to many.
Pam Howard offers a companion course on Craftsy, Jacket Fitting Techniques, that I have purchased but not yet watched. I’ll post a review once I’ve completed it.
Which one to choose
I’m happy I purchased all three classes. Each one has a different perspective and focus, and so they complement each other nicely. I got something unique and valuable from each one. If there’s any downside, it’s reconciling the different approaches in my head.
If you’re considering a single class, here’s my thoughts on how to choose.
- For an easy, non-threatening introduction to tailoring, you can’t go wrong with Kenneth D. King’s class.
- To understand classic techniques like padstitching and taping, and how to work with non-fusibles, your best choice is Steffani Lincecum’s class.
- If you aspire to produce tailored garments that are like high-end ready-to-wear, and have an aversion to lots of hand sewing, you’d benefit most by choosing Pam Howard’s class.
Black Friday Sale
If you’re read this far, you should be aware that Craftsy is currently holding a Black Friday sale, with all sewing classes, regardless of original price available for $19.99. You should never pay full price for a Craftsy class – always wait for a sale – but this sale is incredibly good even by their standards.
Update: The Black Friday sale for 2014 is now long over, but Craftsy does put their classes on sale from time to time. If you don’t have an account with Craftsy, sign up for one of their free mini-classes just so you start getting their emails.
More Craftsy Tailoring Classes
If you’re looking for even more tailoring instruction, here’s some more Craftsy classes on the topic. I haven’t seen any of them.
- Tailoring Ready-to-Wear with Angela Wolf
- Tailoring Ready-to-Wear: Beyond the Basics with Angela Wolf
- Tailoring Ready-to-Wear: The Jacket with Angela Wolf
- Inside Vogue Patterns: Coatmaking Techniques V9040 with Steffani Lincecum
- The Iconic Tweed Jacket with Lorna Knight
I’m probably unlikely to purchase any of the classes involving altering Ready-To-Wear, because I don’t have any RTW tailored garments to alter and likely never will. The Inside Vogue Patterns class is also taught by Steffani Lincecum, but I don’t know how much overlap there is with her Classic Tailoring: The Blazer course.
What I really want
These courses were all valuable, but they all focus on women’s wear. Though many of the principles are the same as for men, some of them are different. After hearing Steffani Lincecum touch on the differences between men’s and women’s tailoring, I’d like to know more.
I’d love to see Craftsy offer a series of menswear tailoring courses. One on trousers, one on vests, and one for jackets.